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Full text of "The Gay Genius"

x                                       PREFACE

tive and impetuous, like "the bird's song in spring and the cricket's
chirp in autumn", as he put it once; or again they may be likened to
the "cries of monkeys in the jungle or of the storks in high heaven,
unaware of the human listeners below". Always deeply involved in
politics, he was always greater than politics. Without guile and without
purpose, he went along singing, composing, and criticising, purely to
express something he felt in his heart, regardless of what might be the
consequences for himself. And so it is that his readers today enjoy his
writings as those of a man who kept his mind sharply focused on the
progress of events, but who first and last reserved the inalienable right
to speak for himself. From his writings shines forth a personality vivid
and vigorous, playful or solemn, as the occasion may be, but always
genuine, hearty, and true to himself. He wrote for no other reason
than that he enjoyed writing, and today we enjoy his writing for no
other reason than that he wrote so beautifully, generously, and out of
the pristine innocence of his heart.

As I try to analyse the reasons why for a thousand years in China
each generation has a crop of enthusiastic admirers of this poet, I come
to the second reason, which is the same as the first, stated in a different
way. Su Tungpo had charm. As with charm in women and beauty
and fragrance in flowers, it is easier to feel it than to tell what elements
it is composed of. The chief charm of Su Tungpo was that of a
brilliant genius who constandy caused worries to his wife or those who
loved him best—one does not know whether to admire and love him
for his valiant courage, or stop him and protect him from all harm.
Apparently there was in him a force of character that could not be
stopped by anyone, a force that, started at the moment of his birth, had
to run its course until death closed his mouth and stopped his laughing
chatter. He wielded his pen almost as if it were a toy. He could be
whimsical or dignified, playful or serious, very serious, and from his
pen we hear a chord reflecting all the human emotions of joy, delight,
disillusionment and resignation. Always he was hearty and enjoyed a
party and a good drink. He described himself as impatient in character
and said that when there was something he disliked, he had to "spit
it out like a fly found in one's food". When he disliked the verse of a
certain poet, he characterised it as "the composition of a Shantung
school-teacher after sipping bad liquor and eating tainted beef".

He made jokes on his friends and his enemies, Once at a great
court ceremony, in the presence of all the high officials, he made fun
of a certain puritanical neo-Confucianist and stung him with a phrase
which made the victim smart, and for which he suffered the con-
sequences. Yet what other people could not understand was that he
could get angry over things, but never could hate persons. He hated
evil, but the evil-doers did not interest him. He merely disliked them.